Why have British troops pulled out of Afghanistan?

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British troops are following in the footsteps of their US counterparts, whose withdrawal from Afghanistan is now more than 90 percent complete, the US Central Command announced recently. US and international forces left Bagram Airfield last week, which has served for nearly 20 years as the centre of the US fight to remove Taliban forces from power and eradicate al-Qaida terrorists. The US was criticised for its hasty and quiet exit from Bagram, the execution of which had cause local Afghan commanders to express surprise at the departure that led to a security lapse, enabling looters into the base.

Why have British troops pulled out of Afghanistan?

The last regular British troops left Afghanistan on Tuesday, ending a costly and highly controversial involvement in the country.

British troops are leaving Afghanistan because they have no choice but to do so as NATO’s 20-year mission in the country draws to a close.

Under a deal with the Taliban, the US and its NATO allies agreed to withdraw all troops in exchange for a commitment from the group not to allow al-Qaida or any other extremist group to operate in the territories they control.

President Joe Biden set a deadline of September 11 –marking the 20-year anniversary of the September 11 (9/11) attacks on the US – for US troops to withdraw, but the pullout is likely to be completed much sooner.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly considering whether to retain a small group of special forces soldiers to advise Afghan security forces.

However, amid these reports and rumours that 1,000 mainly US troops could remain on the ground to protect diplomatic missions and Kabul’s international airport, the Taliban sent a stark warning.

Talking to the BBC, the group said any foreign troops left after the September 11 deadline will be at risk as occupiers.

Afghan forces preparing to take charge of the politically volatile country has caused increasing concern for the future and safety of Kabul.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen assured that seizing Kabul in military terms was “not Taliban policy”.

But speaking to the broadcaster from Taliban offices in Qatar, Mr Shaheen said no foreign forces – including military contractors – should remain in the city after withdrawal is complete.

He said: “If they leave behind their forces against the Doha agreement then in that case it will be the decision of our leadership how we proceed.”

Mr Shaheen insisted NGOs (Non-Government Organisations) and other foreign civilians would not be targeted by the Taliban, and no ongoing protection force was needed for them.

He said: “We are against the foreign military forces, not diplomats, NGOs and workers and NGOs functioning and embassies functioning – that is something that our people need, we will not pose any threat to them.”

Tory MP Ton Tugenhadt, who served in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, said leaving Afghanistan is a “major strategic mistake”.

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He said: “What we’re demonstrating very publicly, very clearly, to many different adversaries, and indeed sadly also to allies, that the US and her allies won’t stay.

“Now if you don’t have the ability to persist you can forget about influencing others, nobody will care what you think if you’re not going to be there tomorrow.

“What you’re doing by withdrawing is you’re encouraging enemies and you’re dissuading allies – that is dangerous.”

British special forces are expected to remain in the country, with one SAS soldier recently returned to the UK saying its role would be to “provide training to Afghan units and deploy with the on the ground as advisers”.

He added: “It’s not a pleasant place at the moment, people are scared and rightly so.

“The Taliban control the countryside and are just waiting for the coalition to leave.

“They are making it [clear] at every opportunity that their peace is with the coalition and not the Afghan Government, the country will implode.”

A Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesperson said: “As agreed by NATO Foreign and Defence Ministers, the withdrawal of Resolute Support Mission forces, including those of the UK under Operation TORAL, will be complete within a few months.

“The UK is involved in ongoing discussions with US and international allies regarding the future of our support in Afghanistan.”

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